In mythology, horses symbolize varying meanings. One of those meanings to the early Celts was energy, power, and healing. But are these really legends and myths, or were there some truths behind these stories?  

As the Lethbridge Therapeutic Riding Association gallops its way forward with its new executive director, Kale Hayes  says his passions are in sync with the organization.  

Hayes was named LTRA’s new executive director on April 3.

“I have a history of working in human services and program development and such in Alberta. I am also a horse guy myself; I have a few horses. For me, I saw an opportunity to really align with what the organization values out here. . . So, I saw it as a blending of the professional skill that I built along with my personal interest and passion,” shared Hayes.  

The LTRA was first started as a passion project in 1976, and the program has developed into an organization which aids over 350 students.

“Something really interesting to me is that the pelvis of a human fits naturally on the back of a horse. Riding therapeutically for individuals that have mobility challenges, if you ride for a half hour, that is the equivalent of walking for half hour. So, there is actually a physical side to the benefits, but then there is also that connection that you have with horses,” Hayes said.  

LTRA is a registered charitable organization that operates with a number of volunteers. The association works with children with physical or mental challenges and disabilities. Hayes expressed the unique quality LTRA offers within its program.

“We are one of the few therapeutic riding programs that involves the kids actually inside some of the process outside of the direct activity so things like saddling or brushing or getting the horse ready for the therapeutic event. And we feel there is a huge impact, like even with fine motor skills or doing those different pieces. But beyond the technical benefit, there is also some pieces of responsibility and ownership that come along with that,” he said.

According to a studying done by Lana Kaiser, Linda Spence, Annique Lavergne, Kerrie Vanden Bosch, published April. 28, 2015, it was found that therapeutic riding impacted children with temperamental and other challenges.

“Data analysis suggests that five days of therapeutic riding day camp can significantly impact on anger. These changes may be related to the child’s relationship with the horse, the social environment of camp, the horse and riding, increased contact with nature, or a combination of these factors.”

Hayes received his Bachelor of Health Sciences in addiction counselling at the University of Lethbridge. He then studied at Yorkville University and received his Master’s in Counselling Psychology. Hayes said he looks forward to being the executive director and the motivation he has being part of LTRA.

“It’s really nice to work somewhere where you believe in it. That is my motivator. There are going to be long days, there is a lot to learn, but really watching, particularly those individuals in that class speaking about the impact it’s had on them personally. I look at it and go yes, that is something I can definitely hang my hat on. So, I am honoured to be picked to be a part of it, but I think that it is a great organization. And we can continue to make it even greater,” he shared.

By Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 24, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Lethbridge Herald    Lethbridge, Alberta

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